Love it or hate it, social media will be here for a long time. Rather than shame or troll on someone else’s account, we should be looking at ways to spread a message that are nurturing to others. Don’t just tell someone they should be eco-friendly or go vegan. Instead, show them how you do it, how inspired you feel, how feasible it is, and how big of an impact they can have in this world. Show them your message kindly, and be consistent and congruent in your words and actions.
Social media—and especially Instagram—happens to be a very effective way to do this. Let’s be real, I have not had television since 2015 and I cannot remember the last time I bought a magazine. In this Information Age, companies and influencers need to be more than just a money-making business. They are expected to connect with customers on social media to not only sell a product or service, but to spread a message that moves people to want to follow them. Instagram is becoming more and more significant than an ad page on a reputable magazine or a tv commercial.
People (in this case “followers”) want to connect with the human behind the brand. They want to know what you stand for before they support you. I cannot tell you how many times I have been attracted to a brand because one of my favorite Instagram accounts showed it in their stories, and the girl promoting it to her 50 thousand followers could totally be my best friend talking to me on Facetime. This is why I began to grow my business through Instagram first! So I took a couple of online courses on social media marketing. This year, I have been getting an average of 1,000 followers per month.
Without further ado, here are 8 tips to maximize your Instagram growth and audience engagement:
1. Smile! We want to see your face.
Make sure your profile picture shows your face clearly. You can make it unique by wearing cool chunky accessories or having a bright colored background. When I switched my profile picture of a boat on a lake to a smiling picture, I saw an immediate response. Though most of my feed shows travel captures, I like to pepper it with smiling pictures of me. We tend to respond so well to smiling faces in real life, and this also translates to Instagram. Seeing your friendly face on both posts and stories will help your followers connect with you. Do not be afraid to share something personal in your captions, too. You do not have to bare your soul online if you do not want to. But a smile and few heartfelt words will captivate any audience, any day.
2. Write your bio wisely.
Look up several accounts in your niche, find out what they all have in common, and write something different. “Traveling the world full-time” does not really sound original these days. You can be witty, smart, or simple. Just make sure you tell us your niche, and what you want us to do as an audience (call to action). Of these two things, I believe the Call to Action is the most important! If you have a blog, tell us to subscribe. If you need us to donate to an NGO, asks us to. If you are selling something, tell us to shop at your online store. Your audience needs a clear call to action. Instagram only allows you to share one link in your bio. You can change this link as many times as you want, but choose wisely. As soon as I added a simple “Subscribe to my blog” with link below my feed description, my website’s traffic doubled.
3. Use your stories 24 hours.
Always have a story running. Stories get so much audience engagement with polls, ask me boxes, messaging, and forwarding options. While your picture post may disappear into a hashtag abyss after a few minutes, you can always make sure followers are seeing your story right on top of their feed. This is the best way to connect with your audience regularly. When they see your face and hear your voice daily, you will begin to build a relationship where they will trust you, and your message will reach more people. This takes work, but if you are committed to your goals and message, this is something you cannot overlook. Doing lives is also fundamental. Yes, trolls may pop up in live videos. I already experienced this. But do not give them the attention they are hungry for. If you ever feel intimidated by the possibility of trolls, imagine telling someone like Rosa Parks that you stopped your mission because someone made fun of you on Instagram. I have to thank Rachel Hollis for that imagery. Pick your favorite significant historical figure and try explaining to them that trolls prevented you from having an impact.
4. Consistency is key.
My motto is “what you do every day matters more than what you do once in a while.” Consistency is what will make your audience grant you their trust. Perhaps you cannot post a story a day, but every other day, or three times a week. The same with posting. Maybe you post once a day, 3 times a day, or 5 times a week. Whatever your number, make sure you select something that you can sustain long-term. I have been posting a picture a day since October 2018. I had 300 followers back then. 6 months later, and I just broke the 5,000. Consistency in your type of content is also important. No one would buy a magazine with a bunch of random articles and pictures, right? So keep your posts strict to your niche and brand, not to mention to keep your editing style congruent, too.
5. Do your hashtag research.
An overlooked technique, your hashtags are your ticket to growth. Do not go for the hashtags with the one million posts if your account is under 20,000 followers. Keep your hashtags friendly to your account size. Until you have reached 3,000 followers, you probably want to use hashtags with 5,000 – 50,000 posts max. Increase the size of your hashtags as your account grows. If you use big hashtags, you post will get buried in hundreds of thousands other photos. Hashtag research makes my life so much easier as I have them all saved on my phone and ready for some “copy-paste” action. Never use banned hashtags like #likeforlike #followforfollow or anything that could potentially have some pornographic content such as #girls. You can and should be using all 30 hashtags Instagram allows. Your account will not suffer for using 30 hashtags, but it will if you use too many banned hashtags. Every single hashtag is an opportunity for new people to discover your account. You can always hide them in the comment section. Just make sure to do a quick “copy-paste” as you want to post your hashtags within seconds of uploading your photo or video.
6. Engage on other similar accounts.
Find similar accounts, and engage on their stuff regularly. Make interesting comments that are not just a “nice shot” with a thumbs up. Like other commenter’s comments. If you do this with similar accounts, those followers that are interested in your niche will come over to your profile and follow you if they like what they see (here is where your bio matters most!).
7. Reward your audience.
Who doesn’t get excited when a bigger account they love following replies and likes a comment they made?! Be kind to your audience. At the very least, like their comments. You will get the most loyal audience when you take the time to thank them and acknowledge them properly. If it is in your budget, a giveaway will totally boost your growth. Even if you only do it once a year. Giveaways are a great way to also remind yourself that the more love and gratitude you give, the more love and gratitude you will get back. If giveaways are out of your comfort zone or budget, a shoutout in your stories will also work nicely.
8. Use the apps that will save you time.
While Instagram is definitely not a fan of automation and you do not want to spread the word that you use it (they prefer real people using the platform so they can show you more ads), it will definitely save you time as your account grows and it becomes harder and harder to keep up with it consistently. There are apps and programs out there like Later, Everliker, and Jarvee that will act as your social media assistant. You can schedule posts, stories, and even like follower’s comments and posts so you do not miss out on giving back to each person invested in your content. Never buy likes or followers as this will end up damaging your account so much, Instagram might shut it down. Automated messages are also considered spammy. When looking at social media automation think of what the automation will do for your followers (bring them daily posts and stories, like their comments, follow them back). It is always about giving and bringing value. Please go easy on these apps if you are just starting out. You want to use automation to help your account, not get it banned.
I leave you now with the responsibility of what kind of message you put out there, and may we all look to use social media as a way to empower others and serve our communities. Let your love for this planet go viral, and lead you to impact others in such a way that we may actually have a positive influence in the future of this world.
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